Counter Culture Coffee Review: Upscale Sustainable Coffee?

Counter Culture Coffee is a Durham-based coffee roastery that offers premium grade coffee, training and educational opportunities for those aspiring to become a professional barista or who want to improve their coffee craft. Even though Counter Culture Coffee is considered one of the leading sustainable coffee brands, should it be a fixture in your daily brewing or drinking routine? We’ve prepared this Counter Culture Coffee Review for you to get to know this roaster inside and out. Enjoy!

Counter Culture Coffee
4.3 / 5 Reviewer
Pros
  • The coffee is a blend of outstanding single-origin beans from top coffee regions
  • Coffee beans are packed in eco-friendly coffee bags
  • Lots of locations
  • Supports environmental projects and community initiatives
Cons
  • Limited coffee blend options
  • A bit pricey
Summary
Counter Culture has been driving sustainability since 1995. While recent press has revealed some problems, it has also pushed them to the next level of social justice in the workplace and their coffee mission remains an aspirational standard in the industry
Variety of Choice4
Ease of Ordering4.5
Value4
Overall Experience4.5
Sustainability / Social Justice4.5

Who is Counter Culture Coffee?

Counter Culture Coffee is an American wholesale coffee company founded in 1995 by Brett Smith and Fred Houk. For over 25 years, the company has focused on sustainability in coffee as its driving force. The company was recognized as an industry leader and is often lauded for its honest to goodness coffee transparency report they’ve been publishing since 2009.

A relentless pursuer of perfection in coffee, Counter Culture Coffee keeps improving its ways of experimenting on the best coffee beans to offer and innovating their ways of roasting while staying humbly committed to the real environmental and fiscal sustainability.

Education

counter culture classroom image

Counter Culture Coffee has managed to build a superb impression among coffee connoisseurs. over the last 25 years! They provide easy to follow brew guides, dynamic homebrew classes, training centers, and educational opportunities aside from specialty coffee offerings. Here’s a quick read about these fantastic finds in Counter Culture Coffee.

Brew Guides

With Counter Culture Coffee brewing guides, you’ll learn the basics of making better coffee. The guide shares valuable information about proper brewing, temperature adjustments, grind measurements, and secured storage.

The brew guides shared by the Counter Culture Coffee team also include How-To Videos about refining your grinds, pour-over hacks, preparing your cold brew, best French Press, and Aeropress brewing techniques as well as making single-serve coffee like a pro.

Training Centers

It’s in the regional training centers where all the magic happens. They create a coffee hub for local support teams, wholesale partners, and exciting coffee starters vying to explore, train, and practice the art of coffee and its trusted equipment.

Likewise, the Counter Culture Coffee training center serves as the venue for important public events like Tasting at Ten, Home Brew classes, and Catalog Cupping. If you’re interested in attending any of the events mentioned but is too far from Durham, you can still participate in these events in the following locations:

  • Asheville Training Center (Asheville, NC)
  • Atlanta Training Center (Atlanta, GA)
  • Bay Area Training Center (Emeryville CA)
  • Boston Training Center (Somerville, MA)
  • Charleston Training Center (Charleston, SC)
  • Chicago Training Center (Chicago, IL)
  • Dallas Training Center (Dallas, TX)
  • Durham Training Center (Durham, NC)
  • Los Angeles Training Center (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Miami Training Center (Miami, FL)
  • New York Training Center (New York, NY)
  • Seattle Training Center (Seattle, WA)
  • Washington DC Training Center (Washington, DC)

Home Brew Classes

The Home Brew Classes facilitated by the CounterCulture Coffee Team aim to guide and support aspiring at-home baristas with their easy to engage Brewing Coffee at Home and Espresso at Home classes. These classes enable you to hone the skills and knowledge in preparing the perfect coffee while in the comforts of your kitchen. 

Resource Center

The Counter Culture Coffee resource center is all about the journey of the Durham-based roastery in perfecting coffee. It tells about the experimentations, innovations, and collaborations made by Counter Culture with partners, producers, and professional baristas since its conception. 

Sustainability

Counter Culture Coffee is truly a role model when it comes to sustainable coffee. The coffee company operates by following the core of their business, which is sourcing coffee. Yet, these core values would not manifest without transparency. Such is reflected in their Purchasing Principles and Supply Chain Objectives.

Transparency Reports

The Transparency Reports published by Counter Culture are an honest affirmation of what the coffee company has been doing for 25 years of roasting the best coffee beans sourced from its 55 coffee suppliers, where 23 of it are some of Counter Culture Coffee’s most trusted coffee bean partners.

Their 2019 Transparency Report highlights “visibility across the coffee supply chain” that is often misunderstood. It also discusses carbon emissions data covering the air travels, employee commuting journeys, delivery, and plastic usage of the coffee company.

Seeds Programme

CCC also supports the Seeds Programme by donating one cent per pound of coffee sold. This program assists in creating community facilities and improving the farmer’s income with its crop diversification. 

Local Communities

The CounterCulture team supports the local community by focusing on organizations that promote sustainable agriculture and food security. The company makes local donations and volunteer time off to keep the place where they live and work. 

Local donation is given to organizations that work on sustainable farming or food security. Volunteer time off, on the other hand, is an 8 hour- Paid Time off of Counter Culture employees to do volunteer work. 

It’s an excellent opportunity for the team in every region to learn more about their communities and provide a lending hand in doing social and environmental tasks that organizations support.

Educational Resources

The resource center is filled with video series that lead us from barista brewing techniques to coffee sustainability. It’s a helpful page to visit when you browse their website as it exhibits different coffee perspectives coming from coffee experts. 

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Action

Counter Culture Coffee sees to it that their employees aren’t isolated and excluded from their sustainable plans. At the end of 2019, they started their conversation with Intersections, a Raleigh-based DEI Consultant, and began a cultural audit in June 2020 after public allegations about systemic racism and abuse complaint cover-ups surfaced online.

Likewise, they provide intensive training and sessions where all Counter Culture staff will begin its cross-departmental Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training in August 2020. They also partnered with Kantola to provide the employees with organization-wide discrimination and harassment training.

According to the Counter Culture Coffee Co-Founder and President, Brett Smith, the company has taken immediate and meaningful action concerning the coffee company’s allegations. The cultural audit is one of the improvements made following the incident, where an initial survey has been implemented, followed by feedback forums that include individual and group listening sessions.

Counter Culture Coffee identified 48.9% of its employees who participated in the small group discussions to share their experiences with DEI Consultants of Intersection. The sessions with Intersection is ongoing, and to date, they already had 25 small group sessions. After these sessions, it will move to the strategy and action phase, in which Britanny and Adrienne of Intersections will guide the Counter Culture Coffee employees on an ongoing basis.

Coffees Offered

If you’re looking for the best coffee blend to try from Counter Culture Coffee, the Big Cup of Coffee makes it easy for you to know what these beans can offer.

Apollo

Apollo showcases Ethiopian coffee beans’ goodness as it is 100% sourced from Dambi Udo, Ethiopia. It is a palatable silky, sweet, and bright coffee with hints of floral and citrus notes. The coffee beans are machine washed and roasted up to 72 levels based upon the Agtron roast level scale. Among the many coffee blends of Counter Culture, Reddit users highly recommend this roast, especially if you got the fresh batch because it pairs well with baking spices.

Highly Recommended
Counter Culture Coffee | Apollo | 12 oz | Whole Bean
$17.00 ($1.42 / Ounce)
  • CITRUS | FLORAL | SILKY. Roast Level: 72. Apollo is a medium-dark roast comprised of certified organic washed Ethiopian coffees. Components change over the seasons, but the coffee will always be clean and bright.
  • CERTIFIED ORGANIC AND KOSHER whole bean coffee. We source only exceptional coffee beans that are sustainably farmed and environmentally sustainable. We maintain detailed relationships with each of our partners.
  • FRESH ROASTED ON THE DAY IT SHIPS*. We don't roast your coffee beans until you place your order, and then we get it on the way to you that day! *Note: Third party sellers in amazon are not authorized and don't sell fresh roasted beans.
  • BLEND OF 65% WORQA CHALBESA, ETHIOPIA AND 35% WATADARA ETHIOPIA. Apollo will always be clean and bright. Specific flavors (e.g. citrus, floral, honey, etc.) will change with the seasons, but the thing that will never change is the clarity of the coffee.
  • SINCE OUR FOUNDING IN 1995, Counter Culture has been a relentless pursuit of coffee perfection through a dedication to real environmental, social, and fiscal sustainability and a commitment to creating cutting-edge coffee people.


Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API or Directly from the Manufacturer. #CommissionsEarned
10/25/2020 01:32 pm UTC

Big Trouble

Big Trouble is a sustainable dark roast that features a round body with caramelicious and nutty flavor. This coffee blend is a mixture of 50% Puente, Honduras coffee beans, 30% Elena, Guatemala coffee beans, and 20% Cueva, Colombia coffee beans. The coffee beans are washed and are roasted up to 63 levels based on the Agtron roast level. Big Trouble is available year-round and tastes better as a milk-based beverage.

Counter Culture Coffee | Big Trouble | Whole Bean | 12oz
$17.00 ($1.42 / Ounce)
  • CARAMEL | NUTTY | ROUND. Roast Level: 63. Big Trouble is a dark roast comprised of freshly harvested coffees from around the world. Components change over the seasons, but the coffee will always taste like dark chocolate, caramel, and have a round body.
  • BLEND COMPONENTS: 75% INCAHUASI, PERU / 15% URCUNINA, COLOMBIA / 10% BAROIDA, PAPUA NEW GUINEA. Big Trouble will always be freshly harvested coffee that is sweet and mild with notes of caramel, nuttiness, and dark chocolate in varying proportions.
  • FRESH ROASTED ON THE DAY IT SHIPS*. We don't roast your coffee beans until you place your order, and then we get it on the way to you that day! *Note: Third party sellers in amazon are not authorized and don't sell fresh roasted beans.





Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API or Directly from the Manufacturer. #CommissionsEarned
10/25/2020 06:31 pm UTC

Fast Forward

Fast Forward is a sweet and nutty coffee with a light body. It is a blend of 70% Kabeywa, Uganda coffee beans, and 30% Adenisa, Guatemala coffee beans. It’s a washed, processed, and Kosher-certified coffee bean roasted up to 72 levels based on roasting’s Agtron level. 

Counter Culture Coffee | Fast Forward | Whole Bean |12 oz
$17.00 ($1.42 / Ounce)
  • NUTTY, SWEET, CREAMY. Roast Level: 72. Fast Forward is a medium-dark roast comprised of freshly harvested, certified organic coffees from Latin America and Africa. Components change over the seasons, but the coffee will always taste nutty and creamy.
  • CERTIFIED KOSHER whole bean coffee. We source only exceptional coffee beans that are sustainably farmed and environmentally sustainable. We maintain detailed relationships with each of our partners.
  • FRESH ROASTED ON THE DAY IT SHIPS*. We don't roast your coffee beans until you place your order, and then we get it on the way to you that day! *Note: Third party sellers in amazon are not authorized and don't sell fresh roasted beans.
  • 100% LA CAPILLA, PERU. In Fast Forward, we offer similar coffees from different harvest periods, making it easy to enjoy fresh coffees throughout the year.
  • SINCE OUR FOUNDING IN 1995, Counter Culture has been a relentless pursuit of coffee perfection through a dedication to real environmental, social, and fiscal sustainability and a commitment to creating cutting-edge coffee people.


Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API or Directly from the Manufacturer. #CommissionsEarned
10/25/2020 06:31 pm UTC

Forty-Six

Forty-Six is Counter Culture Coffee’s staple dark roast for its maximize sweetness and complexity. It features a full body with hints of dark chocolate and smoky-tasting notes. The beans are available year-round. It’s a Kosher blend of 45% Kabeywa, Uganda beans, 35% Kabeywa Natural, 10% Cenaproc, and 10% Kedemesa, Ethiopia coffee beans.

Counter Culture Coffee | Forty Six | Whole Bean | 12 oz
$17.00 ($1.42 / Ounce)
  • DARK CHOCOLATE | SMOKY | FULL-BODIED. Roast Level: 52. Forty-Six is our darkest roast and is comprised of certified organic washed and natural coffees from Latin America and Africa. Components change over the seasons, but the coffee will always taste sweet, smokey, and nuanced.
  • CERTIFIED ORGANIC AND KOSHER whole bean coffee. We source only exceptional coffee beans that are sustainably farmed and environmentally sustainable. We maintain detailed relationships with each of our partners.
  • FRESH ROASTED ON THE DAY IT SHIPS. We don't roast your coffee beans until you place your order, and then we get it on the way to you that day! Note: Third party sellers in amazon are not authorized and don't sell fresh roasted beans.
  • BLEND COMPONENTS: 60% ESPIRITU WARI, PERU / 20% KILENSO, ETHIOPIA / 20% JABANTO NATURAL, ETHIOPIA.
  • SINCE OUR FOUNDING IN 1995, Counter Culture has been a relentless pursuit of coffee perfection through a dedication to real environmental, social, and fiscal sustainability and a commitment to creating cutting-edge coffee people.


Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API or Directly from the Manufacturer. #CommissionsEarned
10/25/2020 06:31 pm UTC

Hologram

The Hologram coffee blends scored 71 levels based upon the Agtron scale. The coffee beans are naturally sun-dried washed. Likewise, it is a blend of 60% Concepcion Huista beans, 30% Dambi Udo beans, and 10% Halobariti beans. This Kosher-certified blend features a fruity, milk chocolate flavor with a syrupy body.

Counter Culture Coffee | Hologram | Whole Bean | 12 oz
$17.00 ($1.42 / Ounce)
  • FRUITY | MILK CHOCOLATE | SYRUPY. Roast Level: 70. Hologram is a medium-dark roast comprised of washed and natural coffees from Latin America and Africa. The components change over the seasons, but the coffee always tastes fruity, chocolatey, and complex.
  • CERTIFIED KOSHER whole bean coffee. We source only exceptional coffee beans that are sustainably farmed and environmentally sustainable. We maintain detailed relationships with each of our partners.
  • FRESH ROASTED ON THE DAY IT SHIPS. We don't roast your coffee beans until you place your order, and then we get it on the way to you that day! Note: Third party sellers in amazon are not authorized and don't sell fresh roasted beans.
  • BLEND COMPONENTS: 65% URCUNINA, COLOMBIA / 13% GEDE NATURAL, ETHIOPIA / 12% MUDA NATURAL, ETHIOPIA / 10% KUSHIKAMANA, KENYA.
  • SINCE OUR FOUNDING IN 1995, Counter Culture has been a relentless pursuit of coffee perfection through a dedication to real environmental, social, and fiscal sustainability and a commitment to creating cutting-edge coffee people.


Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API or Directly from the Manufacturer. #CommissionsEarned
10/25/2020 06:31 pm UTC

Slow Motion Decaf

The Slow Motion Decaf is the decaffeinated blend of 100% Decaf La Voz, Guatemala coffee beans. It features a molasses and cocoa flavor in its smooth body. The coffee beans in this decaf blend are roasted to 58 levels. The beans are washed-processed and are decaffeinated with the Swiss Water Process.

Counter Culture Coffee | Slow Motion Decaf | Whole Bean |12 oz
$17.00 ($1.42 / Ounce)
  • MOLASSES | COCOA | SMOOTH. Roast Level: 58. Slow Motion is a dark roast comprised of freshly harvested, organic coffees from Latin America which are decaffeinated gently using the water process. Components change over the seasons, but the coffee will always taste cocoa-y and smooth.
  • CERTIFIED ORGANIC AND KOSHER whole bean coffee. We source only exceptional coffee beans that are sustainably farmed and environmentally sustainable. We maintain detailed relationships with each of our partners.
  • FRESH ROASTED ON THE DAY IT SHIPS*. We don't roast your coffee beans until you place your order, and then we get it on the way to you that day! *Note: Third party sellers in amazon are not authorized and don't sell fresh roasted beans.
  • 100% PERU, IHUAMACA. Slow Motion reflects two ideas: Coffees are best when they are freshly harvested, and decaffeinated coffees can be exceptional.
  • SINCE OUR FOUNDING IN 1995, Counter Culture has been a relentless pursuit of coffee perfection through a dedication to real environmental, social, and fiscal sustainability and a commitment to creating cutting-edge coffee people.


Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API or Directly from the Manufacturer. #CommissionsEarned
10/25/2020 06:31 pm UTC

Subscriptions

If you want to make Counter Culture Coffee your sustainable supply of coffee every week, every 2, 3, or 4 weeks, avail their ongoing subscriptions and choose among the nine coffee blends you’d want to be delivered at your doorstep.

What the Community Says

Alternatives

If you’re overwhelmed with the coffee blends that Counter Culture Coffee offer, Big Cup of Coffee recommends the following options:

Larrys Coffee

Larry’s Coffee sources their coffee beans from 16 coffee-producing countries around the world. This Raleigh-based coffee roaster partners with small-farm cooperatives that grow coffee in 2 to 5 acres of land. The coffee beans they import from different producers and coffee regions are roasted in varying lengths before blended to create a unique flavor profile that suits your palate.

To learn more about Larrys coffee and their sustainable ways of roasting and to support the community, you can read our Larrys Coffee review here.

Sustainable Favorites
Larry's Coffee | Larry's Beans

Larry's combines coffee excellence with a belief that business can be a force for good. Based in Raleigh's Five Points neighborhood, Larry's occupies a cluster of three buildings with a roastery in the center, incorporating solar water-heated floors, rainwater-driven restrooms and a massive passive-solar clear story. All Larry's Coffee is Organic, Fair Trade and Shade-Grown, (including the fully recyclable k-cups the company recently launched). 

Larry's is a certified B-Corporation, modeling the role of business as a source of good in the world. The company is also a founding member of Cooperative Coffees, a group of independent coffee roasters importing coffee directly from farmers with the goal of defining a higher standard of partnership and fairness. 

Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API or Directly from the Manufacturer. #CommissionsEarned

Tiny Footprint Coffee

Tiny Footprint Coffee is a coffee roaster with an environmental cause. It’s the world’s first carbon-negative coffee that supports sustainability and fair labor. They source their coffee beans from farmers who give utmost care to the coffee plants and protect the environment where they cultivate their beans. Also, they pay their growers a fair and competitive wage.

Read how Tiny Footprint Coffee delivers delicious coffee blend while protecting the environment from our full Tiny Footprint Coffee review.

Carbon Negative!
Tiny Footprint Coffee

The World's First Carbon Negative Coffee Roaster!

Tiny Footprint Coffee is a coffee roaster with an environmental cause. It's the world's first carbon-negative coffee that supports sustainability and fair labor. They source their coffee beans from farmers who give utmost care to the coffee plants and protect the environment where they cultivate their beans. Also, they pay their growers a fair and competitive wage.

Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API or Directly from the Manufacturer. #CommissionsEarned

Portland Roasting Company

Portland Coffee Roasters sources its beans directly from farmers. Not only do these coffee roasters support FairTrade, but they also embrace practices that build sustainable relationships with the communities.

Find out how Portland Roasting Company supports the community and protects the planet with its eco-friendly ways in our full Portland Roasting Company review here.

Sustainability Pioneers
Portland Coffee Roasters
$27.99 ($0.87 / Ounce)

Since 1996, Portland Roasting Coffee has sourced coffee directly from farmers while building sustainable relationships with them and the communities they support. For more than 20 years Portland Roasters has worked to create lasting connections extending from their local community to their farmers, their customers and partners. These connections are at the heart of their business, and allows them to focus not just on coffee, but on improving both people and planet.

Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API or Directly from the Manufacturer. #CommissionsEarned
10/26/2020 12:33 am UTC

Our Verdict

There’s no perfect coffee company. Every company has its flaws, but what makes it different is how companies address their deficiencies to improve and become a better version of itself. Despite recent allegations surfaced online, Counter Culture Coffee remains committed to its promise since its conception in 1995. They’ve been giving back to the communities they serve, setting the bar for coffee quality, sourcing, and environmental awareness.

This leading sustainable coffee company is hopeful they can continue the critical conversations about sustainability that they initiated 25 years ago and and sincerely want to prevent systemic racism and abuse from happening again behind the scenes in their workplace and elsewhere.

Adam McAree

Adam McAree

Author

Adam loves coffee. Since opening a cafe with his parents in 1994, he's never really been without a french press or without access to a local roaster. Share a coffee with him and be prepared for some serious conversation!

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